Arugula

Whether you call it arugula, rocket, rucola or roquette, one thing is for sure: this green leafy vegetable deserves a spot in your diet.  With its dark green leaves and signature peppery taste, arugula is a staple in many Mediterranean dishes. It's delicious in salads, in pasta sauces and on pizza. Even better, it's chock full of nutrients and antioxidants.

Arugula

Nutrition Notes

When it comes to vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, leafy green vegetables are hard to beat.   They offer fibre, vitamins C, A and K, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium and beta-carotene and have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

Leafy greens are also an exceptional source of lutein and zeaxanthin, phytochemicals that guard against cataract and macular degeneration. Research also suggests a regular intake of leafy greens can keep your mind sharp as you age.

Arugula also contains vitamin C, folate and magnesium.  Thanks to its peppery taste, arugula is an easy way to add a rich flavour to dishes without adding extra calories or sodium.

Nutrient information per 1 cup (250 ml) fresh arugula:

Calories 5 kcal
Fat  0.1 g
Protein  0.5 g
Carbohydrate 0.7 g
Fibre 0.3 g
Calcium 32 mg
Magnesium  9 mg
Vitamin C 3 mg
Folate 19 mcg 
Vitamin K 22 mcg
Lutein 0.7 g

 Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Varieties

Arugula, also known as Eruca sativa, is a species of wild lettuce, belonging to the cruciferous family of vegetables, which also includes broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.  In general, wild arugula has smaller, spicier leaves than cultivated arugula.  

Cultivated arugula is usually available as either young (baby) or mature leaves.  Baby arugula is oval in shape, similar to spinach, and has a mild, nutty flavour.  Mature arugula leaves have more pronounced lobes and ridges, tend to be darker in colour and have a more peppery taste.  

Buying

Look for arugula that is bright green in colour with no signs of damage or wilting.  Arugula is available pre-washed and packaged or in loose bunches.   In the spring and summer, look for arugula that is locally grown, available at grocery stores and farmer's markets.

Arugula, like spinach and Swiss chard, is an easy vegetable to grow in your garden.  Whether you opt for a large clay pot or small garden, planting, growing and harvesting your own arugula couldn't be easier and can save you money if you buy it often.

Storing

Arugula is highly perishable and should be used within a few days of buying.  To prolong its shelf life, loosely wrap the leaves in a damp cloth and store in the crisper for 3 to 4 days.  Wash the leaves just prior to using to prevent premature wilting. 

Preparing

Loose bunches of arugula tend to be gritty with sand and dirt and will require a few rinses before eating.  To wash arugula, fill a large bowl with room temperature water and submerge arugula leaves. Gently rubs leaves under the water, allowing any dirt or sand to fall to the bottom of the bowl.  Lift arugula leaves out of the water and place them in a salad spinner; spin until dry.

While often thought of as a salad green, arugula can also be sautéed and added to hot dishes including soups, sauces and pasta.  Like spinach, it doesn't require a long cooking time - only a couple of minutes are needed to wilt the leaves.  

Eating

Arugula's signature peppery taste lends well to dishes that contain other ingredients with strong flavours such as roasted nuts, parmesan cheese, smoked meat and extra virgin olive oil.

Healthy ways to enjoy

Breakfast

  • Add a handful of fresh arugula to an egg white omelet made sautéed red onion, garlic, red bell peppers, asparagus and low fat cheese.

Lunch

  • What better way to enjoy arugula's peppery taste than in a salad? Toss fresh arugula with chickpeas, chopped tomato, chopped fresh chives, orange segments with balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Make a wrap with grilled chicken breast, mango slices and equal parts arugula, cilantro and mint. Season with freshly ground pepper and a touch of sea salt.

Dinner

  • Next time you're at a pizzeria order arugula on your pizza. It pairs especially well with prosciutto, tomatoes and black olives.
  • Add four cups (1 litre) of arugula to your favourite tomato-based pasta sauce just before serving. Toss with whole grain pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Did you know?

  • Arugula was once believed to have aphrodisiac properties and was forbidden from being planted in convent gardens.
  • Arugula used to be grown for its leaves and it seeds, which were used to flavour cooking oils.
  • In some Mediterranean countries, a digestive alcohol called rucolino is made from arugula and is often enjoyed after a meal.

More Information

Wikipedia

Gourmet Sleuth